A hankering for potatoes recently combined with the not-so-gentle urging of my daughter resulted in a quest to make Twice Baked Potatoes. My quandary? How to make this traditionally creamy, cheesy dish vegan. I found a perfect solution using a healthy and delicious substitute…inspired by a trip to Argentina of all places.
Have I ever told you that I grew up in a small town? I’ve since graduated to a city 100 times the size of my childhood domicile. I like to adapt a completely unoriginal saying, “You can take the girl out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl.” It’s true. I hate to say it, but folks who’ve grown up in small towns are just kinda quirky. Think about it for a minute and you might come to agree.
Growing up in a small, rural town ingrains in a person a sense of freedom; like you’ve become a conduit for the spirit of Tom Sawyer. You may now live in the city, wear suits and sit in a big, fancy office, but in the quiet moments when no one is watching, you’re longing for an open field and a dilapidated barn to explore.
Sometimes my small town roots really stand out when it comes to the foods I crave. Sure, I love miso soup, tofu, and Brussels sprouts; things I never heard of when I was a kid. But every now and then I get a hankering for a potato that just won’t be denied.
I’ve come to a spot in my life where I can actually take pleasure in this marriage between my two selves (Actually, I have more selves than that, but we’ll just deal with the two for today). I like exploring the simplistic tastes of my childhood and combining it with the more sophisticated (and healthy) preferences of my adult palate.
So when my recent urge for potatoes came on full throttle, I decided to give it a more adult (if not suburban) twist; Twice Baked Potatoes. Of course, I have to give my daughter credit here too because she’s been begging for these lately. My quandary was how to make a vegan version that combined full flavor and healthy ingredients. Most Twice Baked Potatoes include lots of sour cream and cheese (things we vegans don’t eat). After letting the idea simmer for a bit, I finally landed on a “ve-cheesy” solution. Ve-cheesy is a word I just made up. It means vegan and cheesy. See how quirky I can be? I blame it on those small town roots!
Interestingly enough, my solution for ve-cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes was inspired by a trip to Argentina. I know, I know, trips to Argentina doesn’t fit with my small-town background. Hey, I’m complicated. What can I say? Anyway, my vegetarian self was in Buenos Aires a few years ago and I landed in a cafe dining on what resembled a pumpkin souffle. Savory pumpkin. It was delicious! Other people in our group thought that big plate of orange substance I was eating was cheese. Little did I know how that moment would eventually become fodder for future dishes.
I think those Argentines have a good thing going so I decided to use a similar theme with my Twice Baked Potatoes. But instead of pumpkin, I used a sweet potato. The orangy color of the sweet potato flesh combined with a little bit of nutritional yeast flakes gave my Vegan Twice Baked Potatoes the perfect ve-cheesy taste!
Vegan Twice Baked Potatoes
(Inspired by a recipe found on Simply Recipes)
- 3 large white (russet) potatoes
- 1 medium sweet potato
- Olive oil
- ½ cup vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti’s Sour Cream bought at my local grocery store)
- ½ cup soy milk
- 2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine (Earth Balance provides great options for dairy-free margarine)
- ½ cup nutritional yeast flakes (I buy these at our local health food store)
- ¼ cup chopped green onion
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chives, (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt
Baked Potatoes. Begin by heating your oven to 400°F. Wash your potatoes (including the sweet one) and scrub the skins to clean off any debris. Use a knife or a fork to poke a few holes in each potato. I’m an inpatient sort so I cooked my three russet potatoes in the microwave for 4 minutes or so. Then I rubbed all four potatoes (white and sweet) with olive oil and placed them on the middle rack in the nicely heated oven and cooked them for an additional 15 – 20 minutes, until they were done. Sweet potatoes cook a little faster than the white potatoes so it didn’t need the head start in the microwave. If you want to cook your potatoes entirely in the oven, cook them for about 1 hour. If you’re like me and choose the microwave route, don’t skip that part about putting them in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. It gives the skin a nice, crispy texture.
Potato Bowls. Once your potatoes are done, use an oven mitt to remove them from the oven. Set aside. Once the potatoes have cooled to the touch, use a knife to cut along the top of the three russet potatoes and scoop out the insides. I used a metal tablespoon to scoop out the potato innards. Remove as much as you can without damaging or tearing the skins. You’ll be left with hollowed out potato skins. They won’t stay that way for long though.
Twice Baked. Combine in a medium bowl your scooped potato innards, vegan sour cream, soy milk and margarine. Use a fork or a potato masher to press the ingredients together. Add sliced green onions and salt and stir until well-combined. Finally, chop the cooled baked sweet potato (I used skin and all) and combine that in a small bowl with the nutritional yeast flakes. Use the back of the spoon to mash the sweet potato as you’re stirring to get a smooth texture. Add the sweet potato mix to the russet potato mixture and stir until just combined. I liked leaving streaks of the sweet potato mixture showing through.
Assembly. Spoon the twice baked potato filling into the potato bowls. Sprinkle with any extra toppings you might want to include such as extra slices of green onions, chives, or grated vegan cheddar cheese. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes to reheat the potatoes.
Enjoy. Serve your Vegan Twice Baked Potatoes as a side dish to any number of tasty entrees such as Lentil Burgers or our family favorite the Bulgogi “Steak” Sandwich. Or it can even serve as it’s own meal with a salad on the side. There you go. Versatile, tasty, ve-cheezy!